This barely qualifies as a Smashing Pumpkins album, since it's only Billy Corgan and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin. However, since Corgan pretty much was the band, he can feel free to slap the Pumpkins label on anything he wants.
Calling an album Zeitgeist is pretty ballsy, especially since the only zeitgeist Corgan captures is modern rock's tendency to loud power chords and a lack of emotion. The passion and musicianship that fueled the best Pumpkins songs seems to have taken a backseat to noise. The layers and layers of guitar, the occasional synthesizer, the length of the songs...very little is able to rise above the haze to stand out. Melody? Nah.
But a few gems are present and well worth seeking out for Pumpkins fans, or anyone who happens to come across them on Pandora. Chief among them is the single "Tarantula," a decent rock song with some pretty good guitar soloing. Also worth noting is the icy "Bleeding the Orchid" and the otherworldly "For God and Country," a slow burner that takes time to grow but is worth it with repeated listens.
All Pumpkins albums need a song at least eight minutes long, and this one's is "United States," which is a showcase for Chamberlin's drumming and an amazing array of guitar pyrotechnics from Corgan. It's nearly apocalyptic, especially on lines like "Freedom shines a light ahead / I'll lead the last charge from my bed / They said my last rites / I don't have to run scared no more / Fight!".
But then it's back to business as usual. A solid two-thirds of the songs are devoid of personality and overproduced, a far cry from the beauty and melody of old. I'm all for artists evolving, but this isn't evolution...it's a computerized collection of sounds, piled and layered, then sold with the Pumpkins name so as to attract fans.
The four songs mentioned are worth hearing but not worth paying for the whole disc, and Chamberlin bolted soon after, giving Corgan the chance to hire a new band and begin recording some more bad music. Seek out the tunes mentioned above and give the rest a wide berth, unless you're the sort of hardcore fan who needs to hear Corgan's every overprocessed guitar note.
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